Feb 6 2013

“find your joy”

Here is my contribution to kick off C!C’s Devotional Journal entitled “find your joy”:

I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

As the idea for this devotional journal began to take shape, I knew that I would need to “practice what I preach” and thus began asking myself: “Jason, where do you find your joy?” In response I decided to start a list and pay attention to when I found myself joyful at the little things in my days. My search became a catalogue of surprise joys, and seemed to deepen the saturation of enjoyment that these little moments brought. Allow me to share the highlights:

  • The “Daddy’s home” rush and outpouring of affection
  • Stealing kisses with “the wife of my youth” in the kitchen
  • Spontaneous laughter, five throats strong, at the dinner table . . . or the hallway . . . or the restaurant . . . or in the car . . . or . . .
  • Reading Ps. 16:9 > “Therefore my heart is glad and my spirit rejoices; my body also rests securely,” and knowing that it is true in me.
  • Realizing that my back isn’t hurting
  • Realizing that my back is hurting but that it won’t hurt in heaven
  • Sudden moments of conviction reminding me that God has called me to such important tasks that I cannot succeed on my own . . . in order that He can succeed through me.
  • Watching family and friends learn to value and apply courage
  • Each new word that my kids learn which make me anticipate future conversations
  • Being pierced by the Word of God via fresh encouragement OR conviction from a passage as familiar as my “work jeans”
  • Finding the beauty in the dance of shepherding my wife AND being shepherded by her

Where do you find your joy?


Dec 7 2012

Advent: the Saviour still comes

This post is from a friend of mine at C!C, Joel Oosterman, reflecting on issues incredibly close to his heart and personal mission.  As well, issues that are close to the heart of C!C as well.  Joel is helping us know more about how we can make a difference and is inspiring us to get there.  Thanks Joel.

– – – – –

I grew up unaware of Advent however this year our family (Kristy, Bekah, Annika & I) will take part in this tradition for the first time. In order to prepare for this, I took some time to examine the history and meaning of Advent. (BTW you can download a free Advent book here http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/good-news-of-great-joy-free-advent-ebook)

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which happened to be December 2 this year, and ends on Christmas Eve (December 24). It is important to note that Advent is not based on any biblical mandate. Rather, Advent is a tradition that has developed over the past 2000 years and allows Christians to celebrate the arrival of Christ and ‘the fulfillment of the promises God made’ beyond the 24 hours of December 25.

Another source described Advent as marked by ‘a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing … It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!’

Simply put, Advent celebrates the arrival of the One who brought good news and came to rescue and redeem. As Christ said at the beginning of his ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

Advent is a time for great joy, yet we must also be cognizant that the need for deliverance from oppression remains urgent. Modern day slavery is not hard to find if you know what to look for. Last weekend Kristy and I were in Sosua, a small town in the Dominican Republic where sex tourism (adult and child) is business as usual. I took Kristy down one of the main streets littered with bars, restaurants and night clubs. Even though it was only 11am exploitation was still easy to spot. Here and there we observed older white men hand in hand with young Dominican or Haitian girls, some looking as young as 14 years old. At night, this area is bursting with white men seeking to exploit and enslave.

Yet while exploitation happens to be more visible in Sosua (as it is in many underdeveloped countries), slavery and sexual exploitation exists in every part of the globe. Men, women and children are being crushed by the weight of this injustice.

I am still surprised at the indifference and apathy that continues to pervade the issue of slavery. A few days ago, Kristy was sitting at a pool talking to a couple. The discussion, as it often does, led to human trafficking and slavery. At this point the man shared that he knew about slavery because he had a friend who wrote a book on human trafficking. He knew about the site SlaveryFootprint.org where you can find out how many slaves ‘work’ for you after completing a survey. Then he said “With all these slaves that apparently work for me, I felt like pharaoh and should have them here to cool me off.” I assume he saw the look of shock on Kristy’s face and followed up with, “If you can’t joke about slavery then what can you joke about.” This man was well aware of the reality of slavery yet gave no thought to flippant comments about oppression. The challenges in the fight against slavery are psychological as much as physical.

But there is hope and deliverance. The efforts to fight against this injustice have been incredible over the past few years and continue to grow. While we celebrate Advent as the coming of the Saviour, we can also celebrate that today He raises up people to serve on the front lines of the fight against slavery and oppression. These courageous and dedicated abolitionists face many challenges every day, such as physical danger, psychological burdens, exhaustion, anxiety, and one that is especially discouraging … indifference.  They also have families and loved ones that they are often separated from for long periods of times.

The season of Advent is upon us again, and Christians throughout the world have different ways of celebrating Advent. If you are celebrating Advent, consider incorporating the issue of slavery and redemption into your traditions. I would encourage you to take time to pray for those who are taking on slavery in a full-time capacity. Send a note of encouragement or gratitude to these individuals. Also, take time to pray for the survivors that these anti trafficking organizations are reaching out to. Survivors are horrifically abused and have long term challenges on their road to recovery.

Here are just a few suggestions of people and NGOs that you can pray for, support, and share with others beginning with one right here in the Dominican Republic.

 

Chantz & Renee Cutts

Here in Sosua, there is a great organization called GO Mad Ministries, started by Chantz and Renee Cutts. They are fighting back against exploitation by providing opportunity, dignity and hope to exploited individuals and communities through job training, education, safe housing, counseling, medical care, discipleship etc. You can learn more about them and their work here:http://www.gomadministries.org/

MP Joy Smith http://www.joysmithfoundation.com/

Jamie McIntosh and the team at IJM Canada – http://www.ijm.ca/

Brian McConaghy and the team at Ratanak International – http://www.ratanak.org/

Timea Nagy and the team at Walk With Me – http://www.walk-with-me.org/

Natasha Falle and the team at Sextrade 101 – http://www.sextrade101.com/

Law enforcement officers

Again, these are but a few of the many courageous abolitionists and anti-slavery NGOS. Please also take time to look into who is fighting slavery in your area locally, nationally and internationally.

With anticipation of redemption and freedom,

Joel

 


Nov 23 2012

He Kept His Scars

Carrie and I wanted to do something new and fun together that was flexible, cheap, and didn’t involve the television.  So we decided to read a fiction book together — as in reading it to each other. About the same time that we were trying to pick a book, we watched the movie “The Hunger Games”.  Knowing that it was one of a trilogy, and figuring they’d likely make more movies we decided to read those books.  It’s been pretty fun.  Part of our nightly routine as the evening winds down has been to crawl up next to each other on the couch or in bed and ask, “Okay, should I read or do you want to?”, and we descend together into an interesting and entertaining world providing a fascinating criticism of modern culture — namely reality TV.

Anyway, let me stay focused on the point of this post: scars.

So at one point in the story one of the main characters receives a particular medical treatment that removes every imperfection from his/her skin (no spoilers here!).  During this scene, the author sort of alludes to the character lamenting the loss of some of the scars earned over the years, which is a legitimate thought, right?  Because scars tell stories.  Whatever the source of the scar, whether a good story or a bad one, our scars partially define who we are.   Scars are reminders.  Sometimes scars are conversation starters.  Some scars are on the outside and are obvious.  Some scars are on the inside and are carefully guarded.  Since that is the case, I wonder if you had the opportunity, would you erase your scars and help remove the memory, the story?  That’s exactly what happened in “The Hunger Games.”

But that’s not what happened with Jesus.

Think about it.  When Jesus paid for the sins of humanity and absorbed the wrath of God, it wounded Him deeply.  But because He didn’t deserve the payment of sin, He willingly bore it for us, by the power of God He rose from the dead, defeating death, sin and hell.  Jesus rose the Forever Perfect Victor, and soon ascended into the perfect heaven to be with our Perfect Father.  Jesus certainly had the power to also rise with perfect skin, showing no trace of the brutality and injustice that He bore to the cross.  However, He kept His scars.  He kept His scars.  Why?  He kept His scars because they tell a good story . . . more than that, they tell the greatest story that could ever be told!

Those scars tell the story of redemption and of hope.  That story enables us to realize the purpose for which we were created — giving all glory to God because we, who have been saved through what those scars represent, have seen both the Justice and Grace of God perfected.  That story couldn’t be hidden . . . it can’t be erased.  That story is meant to be proclaimed from the rooftops as well as in prayer closets.  It is to be repeated in every generation and to every nation, tribe and tongue.  Jesus showed His scars to His disciples to confirm the story in their hearts.  He commissioned them to go be witnesses of the story behind the scars.  The scars bear witness to our hearts of Jesus’ sacrifice to save us from the penalty and power of sin.  And the fact that Jesus kept His scars ought to remind, even compel us to tell the story, the greatest story ever told.

I’m so glad Jesus paid my debt, even though it gave Him scars.  And I’m so glad that He kept His scars.  Scars tell great stories.  I have scars, too, and I want my scars to echo of His, making my story bear witness of His story.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Fix your eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  (Hebrews 12:2-3)

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
it satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
( Hymn: I Love to Tell the Story, Katherine Hankey, 1834-1911)


Nov 9 2012

Hanging With The Wrong Crowd

Even though I don’t like it . . . I still have a tendency to judge people by appearances.  I like praying for people while I ride the bus, but sometimes I catch myself slipping into a “people watching” mode where I lump individuals into categories and ascribe labels that, if I did deep enough into my own heart, are laced with subtle prejudices.  For this, I must repent and surrender to God in search of a heart that’s more like Jesus — each time I see it in myself.

Recently while biking to work I passed an ominous looking bunch of high school students who eyed me as I cruised past.  I found myself thinking:

Yikes, what are those kids up to . . . probably nothing good.  Oh man, my kids are going to be that age one day . . . I wonder what my kids will be like . . . I hope they don’t hang out with the wrong crowd.

And though my feet kept pedaling, that’s where the Holy Spirit stopped my in my tracks:

“Wrong crowd”, huh?  What’s so wrong with them?  I made them and love them just as much as I made and love YOU and your family.  Who have you been reading and preaching about Jesus hanging out with?

Then it hit me (again) that Jesus hung out with the wrong crowd — most of the time.  I mean think about how often Jesus was criticized for going to parties with “sinners”, for reclining at the table with non-religious types who were apparently prone to overindulgence based on the fact that Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.

Jesus hung out with people who . . . get this . . . needed Jesus.  Even the most religious ones in the bunch were some of the worst influences on the people.  And Jesus hung out with them, taught them, and showed them a better way.  Lots of them never turned to Jesus’ way, but He still spent time with them in order to show them the Way.  And therein lies the major take-away from my bicycle-bible-lesson: Jesus hung out with the wrong crowd, but didn’t let it change Him.  Jesus was with them, but He was not like them.  And the vast majority of the time, the wrong crowd LIKED having Jesus around!

Maybe I should hang out with the wrong crowd more often.  Maybe I should desire for my kids to hang out with the wrong crowd . . . but with a foundation fixed on Jesus so as not to be moved from the Truth.  So for myself, my family, and my church, my prayer has become:

  • Lord, make us people that the “wrong crowd” likes to be around.
  • Lord, make us unafraid, pure-hearted, and motivated as we live with and love on the “wrong crowd.”
  • Lord, make us holy as You are holy, equipping us to hold out Your Light while holding onto Righteousness.

Oct 26 2012

Rejoicing Over Glorious Things

One of the verses from the sermon passage this week is Luke 13:17 > When [Jesus] said this, all his adversaries were ashamed; and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

Though the work is often long and hard — this work of being a disciple, husband, father, pastor in a world straining its back against the leadership of Jesus — I have seen Jesus do glorious things.  He constantly renews my heart and my strength to face each new day and each new task.  He fills my house with joyful laughter, and I see the way He loves and provides for my family.  He continues to build His church in C!C, strengthening His disciples and growing their influence.  He gives me hope for the day when He calls all of His people to our final home in heaven.  In that day we’ll step away from whatever work is left to be done and we’ll finally surrender all before the Author of our Salvation, the Glorious One.  And we will rejoice like we’ve never done before.

I came across this great set of songs of praise in Isaiah 12; they are hearty songs of rejoicing in light of a great deliverance:

In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, O Lord.  Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.  Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation .”
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

In that day you will say:
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.  Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.  Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Amen.  Spend some time today remembering and rejoicing over some “glorious things” that Jesus has done for you.  Offer some hope-full praises for the glorious things that are yet to come.


Oct 19 2012

Getting Better At Looking Forward

I believe one of my deepest and profoundest callings as a man and as a father is to be a visionary.  I need to cultivate the ability to rise above the melee of my day to day and scan the landscape “up ahead”.  I need to have a sense of where I and my family are headed … and how that relates to where we want to be headed, where God desires us to be.  I need to scout out potential dangers and also look for life-giving oases, to help build each of us up in life, health and faith.

I had an idea as to one such oasis this past week in conjunction with Hannah’s first birthday.  I have hopes of starting a tradition to write a letter to each child on their birthday, recapping some highlights of the prior year of life and affirming my love and hopes for them.  I plan on saving these letters and will begin “delivering” them, one a year, starting with their 10th birthday.  Admittedly it would have been nice to think of this three years ago when Caleb turned one, but better late than never, right?

In an effort to maybe encourage and inspire some of you, and to kick off my new tradition, here’s my first letter. Shhhh, don’t tell Hannah.

Dearest Hannah,
Today is your 1 year birthday. One year of life with your snuggles. One year of life with giggles, your soft brown eyes, and your snot on my shoulder. For a while, my dear, we called you our little mouse, because you seemed so preciously small, quiet and observant. Now, you are everyday growing and showing us just how big your personality can be. And we love it. I love it.
I love you, and have loved you ever since we found out that God was giving us another child. We were surprised, and we were intimidated, but we knew that God had something special in store for you and our family. We knew this because the miracle of life is such a wonderful, mysterious blessing. And we knew you were going to be special because the Bible tells us that our Heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts to His children.
I have a few very special memories of your first few days on earth, now one year ago.
1) Standing in front of our hospital room window, with you bundled up in my arms – so small, so vulnerable, so practically perfect.  I looked down at you, prayed for wisdom, for protection, and for grace upon grace, and then it hit me … my nickname for you: peanut. My Peanut.
2) Your Gigi and Grandad drove up to Ottawa from Atlanta to be with our family during you birth and first week. I remember with particular joy when they came to the hospital to meet you for the first time, with your brother and sister in tow. My heart swelled to see you in the arms of MY parents … and also to see our entire family together for the first time.
3) That same hospital visit was your brother and sister’s first glimpse at their brand new sibling. Lillie was a little too young to be interested much beyond a kiss on the forehead before getting back to running around the lounge. Caleb on the other hand seemed awed by this little new addition and would often come by your side to watch you, ask questions, and give you little kisses on your hands. Ever since he’s been watching you, helping to take care of you, loving on you … and still likes kissing your hand.
The past year has been full of adventures and ups and downs as your mom and I have worked to find our “new normal” as a family of five.  God has again and again proven Himself faithful to guide, encourage and sustain all of us through every turn, every battleground, and every milestone.
I have found intense joy in seeing you grow, dear Hannah.  Walking at 11 months … your first words: “up” … your laughter … your eagerness to join in on what everyone else is doing … your uncanny ability to soften the heaets of strangers.  You are special and always will be.  Happy Birthday.

Love always,

Dad


Oct 10 2012

Tasty Inspiration Toward Meaningful Community

Life lessons from chicken pot pie?  You bet.

 

As I write this I’m thoroughly enjoying a bowl full of leftover chicken pot pie, and it totally inspired this devotional article, trumping the previous would-be topic.

Here’s how I believe the pot pie originated: once upon a time an resourceful mother opened her dry cupboard to find a random assortment of ingredients all on the verge of going bad.  A look into the root cellar revealed the same situation.  Not to be dissuaded from her mission of feeding her family and managing resources well she daringly glared at the pile of ragamuffin ingredients and . . . threw them all in the same pot.  After stewing everything for a proper amount of time with the necessary savory spices, she tasted her concoction and low and behold it was fantastic.  However, it looked terrible.  And this sharp-minded chef knew that her kids would certainly judge the dish by appearances.  So she did the most sensible thing in the world.  She covered the dish with a pastry.  And ever since, generations upon generations have enjoyed this culinary casserole-marvel, cleverly concealed under a crusty cover of awesomeness.

Here’s the life-lesson.  We are just like chicken pot pie.  We’re a messy conglomeration of feelings, histories, conclusions, hidden talents, hopes and hurts.  Most of the time we’re pretty sure that people will judge us if they could see our character-casserole, and so we work hard to cover ourselves with a nice fluffy pastry for others to look at.  And whenever we interact with folks, we typically only let them into the crust level – gotta keep things nice and sweet, buttery and safe.

And this is where REAL community comes in.  Gospel centered community is like the gleaming silver pastry knife that slices all the way through us, scooping deep to retrieve and dispense a hearty helping of the messy mixture hidden beneath the surface.  Now here’s the best part.  When we let Gospel community expose and share who we really are, we begin to find that the Holy Spirit has “seasoned” our lives in a wonderful manner in order to mesh with other people’s lives.  We find that the “real” part of each others lives are actually pretty savory and contribute to a well-balanced Body of Christ.

I wish to encourage everyone to take a purposeful step toward letting Gospel community bring out the most in your life.  So come on, pastry top, messy middle and all . . . it’s gonna be good.

 


Sep 28 2012

And they’re off . . . again . . . a “thank you”

Yes, admittedly I’ve fallen off the blog wagon lately.  But now I’m back, and I’ve got a good reason to write today.

Earlier this morning my family piled into the car and headed to the airport to see off our new friends from Eagles Landing FBC.  With hugs and high fives we said goodbye to the three couples who have spent the last week looking for ways to serve Celebration! Church.

They shared experience and perspective at the couple’s night out in Carleton Place, at the Women’s Seeds event in Barrhaven, the worshipped with us at our Sunday service, they prayer walked on campus and spoke with some students, they poured into our !group leaders at two different meetings, and they lent a hand with some handy-work and cleanup at a couple local C!C peeps’ residences.  In addition to all of that, they just flat out genuinely loved on people every chance they got.

As both recipient and witness to these acts of selfless service, I’ve found myself immensely encouraged and fueled up.  I am more eager to pour myself out in love and service to my “neighbour”.  I’m also praying that the example of Christian maturity and obedience that the team exhibited would rub off on my C!C brothers and sisters.  I’m hoping that we’ll continue to grow as individual disciples and as a faith family to more fully experience the beauty of Christian community AND to be a “city on a hill” to the world around us.

So THANK YOU, Eagles Landing Team . . . and C!C family, let’s love deeply, serve thoroughly, and shine brightly!


Aug 10 2012

Who are you listening to? Part 2

A few posts ago I wrote about the importance of listening to Jesus in order to receive the words/message that He may desire you to pass along.  Thus, in our marketing-saturated society, we’ve got to be careful who we’re listening to so that we don’t miss out on the best messages.  Well, thanks to a series of life circumstances over the past couple weeks, I’ve got version 2.0 of that message.

In all honesty, it’s been a tiring couple of weeks, physically and spiritually.  Sparing the details, there were travelings, sicknesses, losses, disappointments, unmet expectations, flat bicycle tires, and often a general feeling of being spiritually assailed by the evil one.  Enter into that picture a simple children’s praise CD that has put various Scripture verses to music.  (Caleb requests this one a lot.)

[ band strikes up ]

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks . . . the mouth speaks.”

“Matthew 12:34″

And that’s the song.  Remarkably simple, with a fairly catchy tune (come take a ride in our swagger wagon . . . I’m telling you, Caleb will likely request it.)

Well here’s the rub.  I realized that in the midst of this difficult couple of weeks, my mouth wasn’t “clothing myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12) like I would want.  The lyrics/verse of the song provided the reason why.  I had definitely been short-changing my time in the Word in the midst of the craziness.  My heart was overflowing with more woes that it was with the Word.  So in response, I dove into Psalms to help find my bearings.

The Lord rewarded my obedience with Psalm 25 .  Go ahead, take a few minutes and read it.  Put yourself into the Psalmist’s shoes and pray this from your perspective instead of David’s.  Pay attention to your heart as you meditate on the picture of God described in the chapter.  Pray that God would keep His Truth in your heart . . . and watch how your responses throughout the day change.  ‘Cause ya know . . . “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”


Jul 13 2012

A Future Not Our Own

This poem was passed along to me by Emily Crawley . . . a fantastic young lady at C!C.  The poem is by Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador – assassinated while celebrating mass in the cancer hospital where he lived.

 

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.

The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our vision.

 

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession bring perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives include everything.

 

This is what we are about; we plant seeds that one day will grow.

We water the seeds already planted knowing they hold a future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

 

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this.

This enables us to do something and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.